Travel in Vietnam – Halong Bay or Ninh Binh?

Vietnam is a country of breathtaking landscapes and unique cultural experiences, making it an ideal destination for adventurous travelers. When planning your itinerary, a prominent location that often captures the attention of tourists is Halong Bay or Ninh Binh. Both destinations offer stunning natural beauty and authentic Vietnamese charm, but they differ significantly in terms of experiences. In this article, we will explore the highlights of both Halong Bay and Ninh Binh, helping you make an informed decision about which destination suits your travel preferences.

Halong Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is renowned for its majestic limestone karsts jutting out of emerald waters, creating a surreal and ethereal seascape. Located in the northeastern part of Vietnam, Halong Bay is often associated with overnight cruises on traditional wooden junks. These cruises offer a chance to explore the bay’s hidden caves, visit floating fishing villages, and partake in various water activities such as kayaking and swimming. The breathtaking sunrise and sunset views from the deck of your boat are a photographer’s dream.


Ba Trai Dao Beach taken from above

Pros of Choosing Halong Bay

– Iconic and unique landscape, with thousands of limestone karsts and islets

– Luxury and mid-range cruises like the 3D2N itinerary by Capella Cruise offer a romantic and leisurely experience

– A variety of onboard activities and excursions cater to different interests

– Ideal for those seeking a relaxing and enchanting escape on the water

– The journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay takes around 2 hours, which is great for a weekend away from the capital.


Halong Bay viewed from Capella Cruise

Cons of Choosing Halong Bay

– High tourist traffic, especially during peak seasons, can make some areas crowded

– Environmental concerns due to the influx of visitors (sustainable cruises are recommended)

Ninh Binh – Vietnam’s Gem

Ninh Binh, often referred to as “Halong Bay on land,” is a captivating region located approximately 90 kilometers south of Hanoi. This hidden gem boasts lush rice paddies, winding rivers, and striking karst formations, making it a photographer’s paradise. One of the most popular spots in Ninh Binh is Tam Coc, where you can glide along the river on a traditional sampan boat through mesmerizing caves and limestone cliffs.


Picturesque Tam Coc

Pros of Choosing Ninh Binh

– Tranquil and less crowded compared to Halong Bay, offering a more authentic experience

– Ideal for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy biking and hiking

– Rich cultural heritage, with ancient temples and pagodas nestled among the picturesque landscape

– The journey from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is shorter than that to Halong Bay, making it more accessible for day trips


Traditional sampan boats in Trang An, Ninh Binh

Cons of Choosing Ninh Binh

– Limited water activities compared to Halong Bay

– Accommodation options might be more basic compared to the luxurious cruises in Halong Bay

Which destination to choose?

Choosing between Halong Bay and Ninh Binh depends on your preferences and travel style. If you seek a luxurious and relaxing experience on a traditional boat amidst stunning limestone formations, Halong Bay is your ideal choice. However, if you prefer a more tranquil and off-the-beaten-path experience, coupled with cultural exploration and outdoor activities, Ninh Binh is the perfect destination for you.

For a well-rounded experience, some travelers opt to visit both Halong Bay and Ninh Binh, especially if their schedule permits. Combining the two destinations allows you to marvel at the diverse beauty of Vietnam and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s rich cultural heritage.


Embarking on 3D2N voyage on Capella Cruise to explore the further sides of Halong Bay


Whether you decide to explore the magical seascape of Halong Bay or immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Ninh Binh, both destinations promise an unforgettable experience in Vietnam. Each offers a unique charm, so take the time to consider your travel preferences and interests to make the most of your journey. No matter which destination you choose, Vietnam’s natural beauty and warm hospitality will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.